Objectives for visual language
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Objectives for Visual Language. Dr. Linda Lohr a nd Dr. Anna Ursyn . Introduction. We will share experiences and insights to describe an easy to use model for writing instructional objectives and show how to apply them to teaching other disciplines with the use of visual language.

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Objectives for Visual Language

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Objectives for Visual Language

Dr. Linda Lohr

and Dr. Anna Ursyn


We will share experiences and insightsto describe an easy to use model for writing instructional objectives and show how to apply them to teaching other disciplines with the use of visual language.

Practice components include creative instructional strategies that help students elaborate and understand information by creating visual explanations. Practice activities promote use of visuals, metaphors, case studies, collaborative projects, and student competitions.

ABCD – Instructional Objectives

Every objective has four components:

  • Audience – it specifies the learner

  • Behavior – it’s about actions: learner performance, observable behavior, real world skills

  • Conditions – equipment, tools, aids, references, special environmental conditions

  • Degree (criterion) – standard performance time limit, range of accuracy, proportion of correct responses, qualitative standards

The four components of the instructional objectives are blueprints for learning. They make a plan to move people from easy to difficult: from Point A to Point B by creating scaffolds (think of them as stair steps).

Point A Point B

What does ‘a’ stand for?

The letter A stands for audience. Who is your audience? The audience is the learner. Looking at our rocket science model, we consider the learners as beings that know, do, or feel.

‘a’ stands for audience

Our audience are students who will be exploring visual language.

Jess Parker – Crowd

What does ‘b’ stand for?b = behavior/outcome desired, what will be or become

Peter White – The lab

Behavior is about actions – learner performance, observable work, real world skills. For a visual objective, “b” describes the students’ use of visual metaphors, symbols, icons, and archetypes.

What does ‘c’ stand for?c = catalyst for learning, the condition or context for performance

C represents the instructional strategy. We create a learning experience for the students where they sketch, draw, and visualize the most difficult parts of an assignment. Students collaborate and interact with other students, content tools, the interface, and the instructor. Visual strategies help learners understand content by increasing germane load.

Tiffany Mulford

What does ‘d’ stand for?d = degree of learning, criteria for assessment

A ‘d’ component includes evaluative methods for aligning and assessing all elements of instruction with student projects and activities.

Instructional objectives for “Project Runway” activities

In a TV show “Project Runway,” the former Parsons professor Tim Gunn requires contestants to make a dress with the following conditions:

  • Spend a given amount of money in an assigned store

  • Purchase construction materials

  • Use Manhattan skyscrapers for inspiration

  • Create the garment in a given (usually short)amount of time

“Project Runway” Objective ‘a’

a = audience

In an objective ‘a,’ the audience has been specified as ambitious designers ready to start their own companies, like the winner Christian Siriano.

“Project Runway” Objective ‘b’

b = behavior/outcome desired,

what will be or become

Contestants create, design, and sew a dress.

“Project Runway” Objective ‘c’

Conditions or limits included: time for sewing, time for the runway presentation, amount of money given, no books allowed, request to fit to the occasion, obeying client’s demands, juror’s preferences about color, material, or pattern, attention to details, and the choice of accessories that fit to occasion.

c = catalyst for learning,

the condition or context

for performance

“Project Runway” Objective ‘d’

d = degree of learning,

criteria for assessment

Objectives ‘d’ are hard to specify because there are no precise standards for artistic endeavors. Jurors exchange their personal preferences, contestants watch and criticize one another, sometimes copying somebody else solutions.

Building objectives for learning with visual language

Examining instructional objectives in a case of the “Project Runway” is interesting because there is some resemblance to teaching science-based themes through creation.

As in the “Project Runway” students use visual language to present their statements, participate actively within learning community, add comments, discuss, and use tools, to support learning.

Visual approaches to science based assignments

In a similar way as for the “Project Runway,” we will examine instructional objectives for a project involving dynamic geology titled “A trip to the center of the Earth.” We will see two different visual solutions to present the Earth interior, one formal and the second one joyful.

The challenge was to visualize this scientific concept, create and communicate a personal artistic solution as a description of the forces affecting Earth’s structure.

A Trip to the center of the Earth – objective component ‘a’

Our audience are students taking a computer graphics course that work on a theme involving dynamic geology. They work on an art project about the physical makeup of the Earth.

A Trip to the center of the Earth – objective component ‘b’

One student (Trevor Pfaff) applied pattern and shading to represent density of the Earth layers. He showed the structure of the Earth as seen during an imaginative journey to the earth center. The pattern and shading represent the density of the material. Thickness of the block indicates the thickness of each layer. The trip begins at the upper left and ends at the solid core in the center of the picture. The student included the description as an explanation of the process, so it showed his learning process.

A Trip to the center of the Earth – objective component ‘b’ – continued

Another person (Michael Keene) presented in an e-mail to colleagues the colorful layers of tomato, paprika, and onion as the sub-strata analysis of an imaginary geographical region. Thus he also coded temperature and density of the Earth layers as colors and patterns, but this time he interacted with peers in a good-humored way.

A Trip to the center of the Earth – objective component ‘c’

Objective ‘c’ relates to equipment, tools, aids, and special environmental conditions.

Individual students devised their own coding (there were no step-by-step instructions) to translate scientific data into visuals. By creating graphic representations students communicated their understanding of the theme: they drew distances, directions, and proportions, and thus learned and then shared their experience.

A Trip to the center of the Earth – objective component ‘d’

Objective ‘d’ tells about the criterion and the qualitative standards of student performance. In case of the creative art projects based on student knowledge, when students derive their insight from the data, authentic assessment of student progress uses realistic performances, such as student contests, thus gaining and communicating assessment through student further successes.


We have shared our experiences and insights in building objectives for a model of learning using visual language. We compared the real-life case of a TV show “Project Runway” to our classroom experience in integrative instruction.

Construction of the objectives serves for improving student power of conveying meaning with images. Visual style of presentation may reduce the intrinsic cognitive load of the users in structuring information, by shifting the explanatory task from abstract to meaningful parts, which may be easier to understand and remember, thus reduces learners' challenges.

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